Q&A: My husband has been leading a double life. Am I overreacting?
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Q: I really need some advice! My partner (well ex-partner I guess) has worked in mining for a number of years. For a while now our relationship has been falling apart and I really couldn't understand why. I did have a really awful gut feeling there was someone else in his life but denied it. I found out (from some checking of Facebook private messages) that there has been another women in his life . He is claiming there was no sexual relationship, only friendship and that he enjoyed talking to her. He ended our relationship (but was still sleeping in our house on his breaks) before I had fully found out about this. He says now he felt guilty about his relationship with this other woman, but didn't want to give it up and thought the best thing to do was end our relationship! I am devastated, I am a strong person who has been through a lot but this has just broken me. I have since found out he has a whole life that revolves around work that I was not a part of, he had never even mentioned this woman or some other friends from work. I have limited support networks at the moment. My friends who are not involved in mining are supportive but they seem to think it’s very straight forward. Get rid of him and move on! I just can't get past the double life stuff! How could I have been so blind and so stupid?!? I guess I need to know if I'm overreacting - he has said that I am a number of times. I don't know if there was infidelity but there were so many lies I don't know whats real and what isn't. I have started to organise some counselling for myself and my kids, but as we are in a smallish town our options are limited.
A: Firstly, YOU ARE NOT OVERREACTING!
I'm really sorry to hear that all of this has happened, and I want to reassure you that it's totally normal to be thinking and feeling as you are at this point. It's very easy for other people to say "just leave him" or "it's not cheating anyway" but these are too simple and unhelpful. No one else's opinion on this matters – you have been betrayed and so you feel betrayed.
I actually disagree with the idea that "if there's no sex it's not cheating" and I know from working with a lot of couples that betrayal can be felt in all sorts of ways. It sounds to me like you feel most cheated that he talked with this other woman at length, and was willing to do things with her that he wouldn't do with you – as though he was a different person with her. That's a very hard thing to come to terms with and it's totally understandable that you're confused and upset!
It's up to you to work out what to do next. Whether or not you decide to leave the relationship or stay will depend on all sorts of different factors, including whether or not your partner is able to see how much he has hurt you and whether or not you two are able to really talk about what led him to deceive you in this way. I'm glad you have organised some counselling because that is the best way forward.
Couples can definitely stay together and even become stronger through situations like this, but it is hard going. It's important that you get some support around you, and this might be counselling but could also be friends and family. It's also OK to let friends know that you are not open to hearing their opinion on your situation at the moment – keep it light and friendly if possible and let them know they could help you out in other ways. Think about some practical things some friends could do to help, and let them know about these. Most people are very happy to be told what to do to help in a crisis situation, because most people want to help but don't know how!
Finally, take it really easy on yourself. It's vitally important that you do all the really boring things like continue to eat well (even if you're not hungry); get some exercise; and see your GP if your sleep is affected for more than a week or so or if you start to feel as though you can't cope with day to day life.
I hope it all works out for you.
To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.